Many smart home device makers still won’t say if they give your data to the government

A year ago, we asked some of the most prominent smart home device makers if they have given customer data to governments. The results were mixed.

The big three smart home device makers — Amazon, Facebook and Google (which includes Nest) — all disclosed in their transparency reports if and when governments demand customer data. Apple said it didn’t need a report, as the data it collects was anonymized.

As for the rest, none had published their government data-demand figures.

In the year that’s past, the smart home market has grown rapidly, but the remaining device makers have made little to no progress on disclosing their figures. And in some cases, it got worse.

Smart home and other internet-connected devices may be convenient and accessible, but they collect vast amounts of information on you and your home. Smart locks know when someone enters your house, and smart doorbells can capture their face. Smart TVs know which programs you watch and some smart speakers know what you’re interested in. Many smart devices collect data when they’re not in use — and some collect data points you may not even think about, like your wireless network information, for example — and send them back to the manufacturers, ostensibly to make the gadgets — and your home — smarter.

Because the data is stored in the cloud by the devices manufacturers, law enforcement and government agencies can demand those companies turn over that data to solve crimes.

But as the amount of data collection increases, companies are not being transparent about the data demands they receive. All we have are anecdotal reports — and there are plenty: Police obtained Amazon Echo data to help solve a murder; Fitbit turned over data that was used to charge a man with murder; Samsung helped catch a sex predator who watched child abuse imagery; Nest gave up surveillance footage to help jail gang members; and recent reporting on Amazon-owned Ring shows close links between the smart home device maker and law enforcement.

Here’s what we found.

Smart lock and doorbell maker August gave the exact same statement as last year, that it “does not currently have a transparency report and we have never received any National Security Letters or orders for user content or non-content information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).” But August spokesperson Stephanie Ng would not comment on the number of non-national security requests — subpoenas, warrants and court orders — that the company has received, only that it complies with “all laws” when it receives a legal demand.

Roomba maker iRobot said, as it did last year, that it has “not received” any government demands for data. “iRobot does not plan to issue a transparency report at this time,” but it may consider publishing a report “should iRobot receive a government request for customer data.”

Arlo, a former Netgear smart home division that spun out in 2018, did not respond to a request for comment. Netgear, which still has some smart home technology, said it does “not publicly disclose a transparency report.”

Amazon-owned Ring, whose cooperation with law enforcement has drawn ire from lawmakers and faced questions over its ability to protect users’ privacy, said last year it planned to release a transparency report in the future, but did not say when. This time around, Ring spokesperson Yassi Shahmiri would not comment and stopped responding to repeated follow-up emails.

Honeywell spokesperson Megan McGovern would not comment and referred questions to Resideo, the smart home division Honeywell spun out a year ago. Resideo’s Bruce Anderson did not comment.

And just as last year, Samsung, a maker of smart devices and internet-connected televisions and other appliances, also did not respond to a request for comment.

On the whole, the companies’ responses were largely the same as last year.

But smart switch and sensor maker Ecobee, which last year promised to publish a transparency report “at the end of 2018,” did not follow through with its promise. When we asked why, Ecobee spokesperson Kristen Johnson did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Based on the best available data, August, iRobot, Ring and the rest of the smart home device makers have hundreds of millions of users and customers around the world, with the potential to give governments vast troves of data — and users and customers are none the wiser.

Transparency reports may not be perfect, and some are less transparent than others. But if big companies — even after bruising headlines and claims of co-operation with surveillance states — disclose their figures, there’s little excuse for the smaller companies.

This time around, some companies fared better than their rivals. But for anyone mindful of their privacy, you can — and should — expect better.

The Station: Canoo hits the road, Coup shutters and Samsung shifts

Welcome back to The Station, the go-to newsletter for keeping up-to-date on what the heck is going on in the world of transportation. I’m your host, Kirsten Korosec, senior transportation reporter at TechCrunch.

Portions of the newsletter are published as an article on the main site after it has been emailed to subscribers (that’s what you’re reading now). The Station is emailed every Saturday morning. To get everything, you have to sign up. And it’s free. To subscribe, go to our newsletters page and click on The Station.

We love tips and feedback. Please reach out anytime and tell us what you love and don’t love so much. Email me at [email protected] to share thoughts, opinions or tips or send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

the station scooter1a

Shared mopeds might be popular, but that doesn’t mean companies operating these services are guaranteed to succeed. This week, TechCrunch reporter Romain Dillet reported that Coup, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bosch that operates an electric moped scooter-sharing service in Berlin, Paris and Madrid, is shutting down.

The closure might surprise some, considering Coup has brand recognition and, according to the company a loyal customer base that uses its services. That’s not enough to be a profitable enterprise. Coup said that operating the service is “economically unsustainable” in the long term.

Meanwhile, TechCrunch reporter Manish Singh learned from two sources familiar with the deal that Bangalore-based startup Bounce has raised about $150 million as part of an ongoing financing round led by existing investors Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital and Accel Partners India. Bounce, formerly known as Metro Bikes, operates more than 17,000 electric and gasoline scooters in three dozen cities in India.

The new round values the startup “well over $500 million,” the people said, requesting anonymity. This is a significant increase since the year-old startup’s Series C financing round, which closed in June, when it was worth a little more than $200 million.

Bounce, which is known for its cheap rental costs, along with competitors Vugo and Yulu are trying to carve market share away from ride-hailing companies like Uber . The big attraction isn’t necessarily price either. Traffic congestion is prompting people to turn to two wheels as well, giving Bounce and others a boost.

Subscriptions are so hot right now

the station electric vehicles1

Remember Canoo, the Los Angeles startup that revealed a minibus-type electric vehicle a few months back? We have an update. In short, the company’s rapid ramp continues to accelerate despite some legal headwinds.

Canoo is taking an interesting approach to EVs. It aims to offer a “subscription only” electric vehicle in the U.S. and China.

The company began life as Evelozcity in late 2017 after ex-BMW executives Stefan Krause and Ulrich Kranz left Faraday Future amid an internal power struggle. Evelozcity rebranded as Canoo in spring 2019 and unveiled its prototype electric vehicle several months later.

Now, the company is beta testing its EV on public roads. Canoo tells me that its focus is to validate the powertrain, steer-by-wire system, battery, chassis and body structure.

Canoo is building a fleet of more than 30 beta vehicles for various types of testing. The bulk of the beta testing is expected to take place over the next six months in various locations, including near Canoo’s Torrance, California headquarters, Toyota’s Arizona proving grounds and on public roads in Ohio.

Canoo said it’s also conducting hot and cold testing as well as focusing on the advanced driver assistance system in various locations.

Canoo electric vehicle

A subscription reboot

Automakers including Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen have been testing subscription programs with mixed success. Now, one failed pilot is coming back.

At an event in Los Angeles, GM’s Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl said the subscription service Book by Cadillac will return next year. GM’s luxury brand Cadillac will pilot the next-generation of the subscription service in San Francisco starting in the first quarter of 2020.

“We learned a lot from the first pilot… first, it verified that there is no longer a one-size-fits-all solution to personal transportation,” Wahl said at the event. “Second, we learned that the BOOK model is enormously effective as a conquest mechanism: 70% of Book subscribers were new to Cadillac.”

Moving forward, Cadillac plans to integrate the subscription service into the retail dealer network, Wahl said.

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

We hear a lot. But we’re not selfish. Let’s share.

Samsung appears to be yet another company stepping back from a pursuit of full autonomy and refocusing efforts and investments towards advanced driver assistance technology. At least for now.

Several years ago, Samsung was all in on autonomous vehicle technology.  At CES in 2018, the company introduced its new Samsung DRVLINE platform — an “open, modular, and scalable hardware and software-based platform for the autonomous driving market. But Samsung is changing up its strategy.

The DRVLINE/Smart Machines team based out of its Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center has been shuttered, a source with direct knowledge of the events told me. This move also includes closing offices in Germany.

Let’s get wonky

the station autonomous vehicles1

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is keen to change how the 5.9 GHz band is used and that matters for connected car technology and the eventual deployment of autonomous vehicles.

For the unfamiliar, the 5.9 GHz band has been reserved for the past two decades to be used by the Dedicated Short Range Communications, a service in the Intelligent Transportation System that was designed to enable vehicle communication. (ITS is a joint operation that overlaps five offices under the Department of Transportation.)

In the FCC’s view, the DSRC service has evolved slowly and has not been widely deployed. The commission issued this month a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to take, what it calls “a fresh and comprehensive look” at the 5.9 GHz band rules and propose changes to how the spectrum is used.

The upshot: the FCC wants to carve up the band. The commission proposed dedicating the upper 30 megahertz of the 5.9 GHz band to meet current and future needs for transportation and vehicle safety-related communications, while repurposing the lower 45 megahertz of the band for unlicensed operations like Wi-Fi.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of this proposed change is the FCC’s views on DSRC and what sounds like a strong endorsement for Cellular Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X). The FCC wants to revise the rules and give C-V2X the upper 20 megahertz of the band reserved for vehicle communications. The commission plans to seek comment on whether this segment of the spectrum should be reserved for DSRC or C-V2X systems.

C-V2X, which the 5G Automotive Association supports, would use standard cellular protocols to provide direct communications between vehicles as well as infrastructure like traffic signals. But here’s the thing. C-V2X is incompatible with DSRC-based operations.

It’s pretty clear which way the FCC is leaning. In a speech Nov. 20, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he believes the government “should encourage the expansion and evolution of this new vehicle-safety technology.” Pai insists that the FCC is not “closing the door” on DSRC, but instead allowing for both.

“So moving forward, let’s resist the notion that we have to choose between automotive safety and Wi-Fi,” Pai said in his speech. “My proposal would do far more for both automotive safety and Wi-Fi than the status quo.”

The Samsung Galaxy Fold is headed to Canada, with in-store pre-orders starting today

The Samsung Galaxy Fold is a very unique smartphone, in more ways than one. The most obvious differentiator is that it folds out to expose a large, continuous 7.3″ display, hiding the seam thanks to a flexible OLED screen. It’s also at the very top end of the smartphone market price-wise, which could explain why it only debuted in a few limited markets at launch. Samsung says that customer interest has helped expand that initial pool of availability, however, which is why it’s launching pre-orders in Canada today.

There’s going to be some sticker shock for Canadians, however: The Fold starts at $2,599.99 CAD in its newest market. That’s the price you’d pay for a well-specced computer, but it’s actually right in line with the price of the phone in the U.S. when you account for currency conversion. Pre-orders are also going to be exclusively in-store, at Samsung’s Eaton Center, Sherway Gardens and Yorkdale locations, all of which are in Toronto. Retail sales, also exclusive to Samsung’s own retail operations, are starting December 6 but pre-order customers will be able to ensure a day one pickup.

Samsung’s Galaxy Fold has had a bit of an uneven launch, with a first attempt cancelled in light of multiple reviewers experiencing issues with their devices. Samsung re-designed elements of the phone as a result, including adding caps to prevent dust entering the crucial hinge component that powers the folding actions, and embedding a necessary pre-installed protective screen covering under the phone’s bezels. Still, our own Brian Heater experienced a display hardware issue within a day with his redesigned review device.

Samsung is offering free “Fold Premiere Service” which includes discounted screen replacements and standard free repairs when an issue is not due to any misuse on a user’s part. Overall, the takeaway should be that this is a first-generation device, but also a totally unique piece of technology in today’s marketplace for those willing to risk it.

New smartphone figures highlight continued struggles to grow market

In some corners, the smartphone market is showing its first signs of life in some time.

Recent figures from Canalys indicate a small but notable uptick in the European market as shipments grew 3%, year-over-year in Q3.

The analyst firm put global growth at 1% globally in another recent report. Generally, such numbers wouldn’t warrant much celebration, but the way the market has been going, most manufacturers will take what they can get.

New numbers out this morning from Gartner paint a less rosy picture, with sales numbers declining 0.4%. It’s not a huge discrepancy between shipping and sales figures, but it’s the difference between being in the red and being in the black for the quarter.

Review: Samsung’s Space Monitor is handsome and minimal — if you have the desk for it

When Samsung announced the Space Monitor, I knew in an instant that it was going to be something I had to try out in person. Now that I’ve had time to do so, I’m happy to say it’s much as advertised, a streamlined and solid monitor with a smart new design — but not necessarily one for everybody.

Samsung Space Monitor

Pros:

  • Clever space-saving design
  • Quiet, attractive look
  • Solid color out of the box

Cons:

  • Doesn’t rotate and height depends on distance from wall
  • Sub-par viewing angles
  • Doesn’t work with every desk

Price: $400 (27-inch); $500 (32-inch)

We don’t review a lot of monitors at TechCrunch — none, really. This was more of a curiosity to me. I’m interested in design and monitors are usually ugly at best. But I was impressed with Samsung’s approach here and wanted to see if it worked in real life.

The big advance of the Space Monitor is its very low-profile mount, which grips the edge of your desk on the wall side and can be folded up flat against said wall. It can rotate up and down, the monitor tilting to taste — not so far as the Surface Studio, but with that same general range of motion.

The monitor itself comes in two varieties: a larger 32-inch 4K one and a smaller 27-inch one at 2560×1440. I reviewed the smaller one, as the large one has a lower refresh rate and I really don’t have any use for 4K in my workflow.

The ideal situation for this thing is a relatively small work space where having the monitor actually sitting on your desk kind of invalidates all the space around it. With the Space Monitor, the stand is flush with the wall, clearing up the area below and in front of it even when it’s folded outwards. It’s easier than piercing the wall for a free-floating display.

The performance of the monitor, as far as I am able to tell, is good but not great. The colors are vibrant and the default settings are solid, if perhaps a little warm (easily adjusted, of course). The refresh rate goes up to 144 Hz, which is more than enough for gaming, and can easily be tweaked to 120 for those of us who are very picky about video pulldown and other deep frame rate stuff.

One thing that isn’t impressive is the viewing angle. I feel like the sweet spot for this monitor is far narrower than on the Dell Ultrasharp IPS panel I’ve used for years. If you’re not sitting directly in front of it, you’re going to get color and brightness falloff at the edge you’re farthest from.

The bezel is narrow, a bit more than a quarter inch, a little thicker on the bottom side. It’s also nearly flush on the top and sides so you don’t feel like the bezels protrude toward you. All in all it’s a very handsome and understated design, as these things go. It’s worth noting that Samsung appears to have fudged the press imagery a bit and the microscopic bezel you see in official images is not actually what you get.

Installation isn’t quite as easy as just setting something down on your desk, but if you have a compatible desk, it’s literally as easy as sliding the clamp on and tightening it. A custom cable (optional, but convenient) combines HDMI and power into one, and fits into a groove on the back of the stand, eliminating clutter.

But you’ll want to take a good look at your desk to make sure it is compatible. I didn’t, and had to jury-rig a solution.

Basically, unless your desk is more or less solid and has a ledge that the clamp can close down on, you might have a problem. My desk is solid and about an inch and a half thick, but has a sort of wall that juts down about two more inches. I removed and reattached the bottom part of the clamp so it could just barely be slipped around the wall, but then the screw wouldn’t reach the bottom surface of the desk, so I had to fill the gap with a book. (It’s okay, I’ve got lots.)

The stand is plenty stiff and the monitor stays exactly where you’ve put it, but it is a little wobbly — understandable, given that it sits at the very tip of a 14-inch-long arm. I only really noticed when I was typing very hard or bumped the desk, when I noticed it wobbled more and longer than the Dell on its traditional stand.

Now, if you’ve looked closely at the way this monitor and stand is set up, you may have noticed something else: this thing can’t rotate. Yes, unfortunately, the nature of the Space Monitor means that it must always be parallel to the desk edge it’s attached to, and can only move directly perpendicular to it. There is also no way to slide the monitor up and down, or rather to do so you must also move it toward or away from you.

For some this is unacceptable. And although it’s fine for me as a primary monitor, it would never work as a secondary one, like the Dell I now have angled toward me adjacent to the Samsung.

That does significantly limit its use cases, and the spaces in which it works well. But I still feel it’s a great option for some. If you have limited space and plan to primarily work from the sweet spot directly in front of it, this is a solid monitor big enough for productivity, movies and games.

For those seeking a low-profile, space-saving alternative to the usual monitors, the Space Monitor is a great option. But for multiple-monitor setups or people who shift the angle a lot, it probably isn’t the best. At $400 it has strong competition from the usual suspects, but for some people the slight increase in image quality or the ability to slide the monitor up and down isn’t worth losing the desk space or having a clunky design. The Space Monitor is available now, at Samsung’s site or your usual electronics retailer.

Samsung ramps up its B2B partner and developer efforts

Chances are you mostly think of Samsung as a consumer-focused electronics company, but it actually has a very sizable B2B business as well, which serves over 15,000 large enterprises and hundreds of thousands of SMB entrepreneurs via its partners. At its developer conference this week, it’s putting the spotlight squarely on this side of its business — with a related hardware launch as well. The focus of today’s news, however, is on Knox, Samsung’s mobile security platform and Project AppStack, which will likely get a different name soon, and which provides B2B customers with a new mechanism to deliver SaaS tools and native apps to their employees’ devices, as well as new tools for developers that make these services more discoverable.

At least in the U.S., Samsung hasn’t really marketed its B2B business all that much. With this event, the company is clearly thinking to change that.

At its core, Samsung is, of course, a hardware company, and as Taher Behbehani, the head of its U.S. mobile B2B division, told me, Samsung’s tablet sales actually doubled in the last year and most of these were for industrial deployments and business-specific solutions. To better serve this market, the company today announced that it is bringing the rugged Tab Active Pro to the U.S. market. Previously, it was only available in Europe.

The Active Pro, with its 10.1″ display, supports Samsung’s S Pen, as well as Dex for using it on the desktop. It’s got all of the dust and water resistance you would expect from a rugged device, is rated to easily support drops from about four feet high, and promises up to 15 hours of battery life. It also features LTE connectivity and has an NFC reader on the back to allow you to badge into a secure application or take contactless payments (which are quite popular in most of the world but are only very slowly becoming a thing in the U.S.), as well a programmable button to allow business users and frontline workers to open up any application they select (like a barcode scanner).

“The traditional rugged devices out there are relatively expensive, relatively heavy to carry around for a full shift,” Samsung’s Chris Briglin told me. “Samsung is growing that market by serving users that traditionally haven’t been able to afford rugged devices or have had to share them between up to four co-workers.”

Today’s event is less about hardware than software and partnerships, though. At the core of the announcements is the new Knox Partner Program, a new way for partners to create and sell applications on Samsung devices. “We work with about 100,000 developers,” said Behbehani. “Some of these are developers are inside companies. Some are outside independent developers and ISVs. And what we hear from these developer communities is when they have a solution or an app, how do I get that to a customer? How do I distribute it more effectively?”

This new partner program is Samsung’s solution for that. It’s a three-tier partner program that’s an evolution of the existing Samsung Enterprise Alliance program. At the most basic level, partners get access to support and marketing assets. At all tiers, partners can also get Knox validation for their applications to highlight that they properly implement all of the Knox APIs.

The free Bronze tier includes access to Knox SDKs and APIs, as well as licensing keys. At the Silver level, partners will get support in their region, while Gold-level members get access to the Samsung Solutions Catalog, as well as the ability to be included in the internal catalog used by Samsung sales teams globally. “This is to enable Samsung teams to find the right solutions to meet customer needs, and promote these solutions to its customers,” the company writes in today’s announcement. Gold-level partners also get access to test devices.

The other new service that will enable developers to reach more enterprises and SMBs is Project Appstack.

“When a new customer buys a Samsung device, no matter if it’s an SMB or an enterprise, depending on the information they provide to us, they get to search for and they get to select a number of different applications specifically designed to help them in their own vertical and for the size of the business,” explained Behbehani. “And once the phone is activated, these apps are downloaded through the ISV or the SaaS player through the back-end delivery mechanism which we are developing.”

For large enterprises, Samsung also runs an algorithm that looks at the size of the business and the vertical it is in to recommend specific applications, too.

Samsung will run a series of hackathons over the course of the next few months to figure out exactly how developers and its customers want to use this service. “It’s a module. It’s a technology backend. It has different components to it,” said Behbehani. “We have a number of tools already in place we have to finetune others and we also, to be honest, want to make sure that we come up with a POC in the marketplace that accurately reflects the requirements and the creativity of what the demand is in the marketplace.”

Samsung teases a clamshell foldable form factor

Last year at its developer conference, Samsung showed off an early glimpse of its upcoming foldable. In hindsight, the Galaxy Fold’s rollout could have gone more smoothly, but sometimes first-gen products go that way, I suppose. At the very least, it’s clear that the company won’t let a rocky start stand between it and broader foldable phone ambitions.

Onstage at this year’s event, the company showed off another take on the foldable display. A video shows the Galaxy Fold form factor morphing into a clamshell more akin to traditional dumb phones.

Unlike last year’s event, this one shouldn’t be taken as a pre-product announcement. Rather, the company says it’s “explor[ing] a range of new form factors in the foldable category.” It’s something that’s been pretty clear from the outset: these earliest days of foldables are very much about seeing which form factors click. Samsung is currently working with developers to explore these concepts.

This latest is more in line with leaks we’ve seen of the rumored Motorola Razr reboot, with an elongated screen that can easily be folded up and stashed away in a pocket. Perhaps we’ll get more insight into the company’s plans as CES or MWC.

Perhaps.

Samsung’s new laptops charge phones with their touchpad

Some features are the result of consumer demand. Others simply make sense. And then there are features like the Galaxy Book Flex and Ion’s Wireless PowerShare that appear to be more a product of a “because we can” approach to product design.

Wireless charging is, in and of itself, kind of a no-brainer in an era when many or most flagship smartphones support the technology. Samsung’s implementation, however, leaves a lot to be desired here. It’s true, of course, that Wireless PowerShare’s implementation is less than ideal, requiring one of two phones to be face-down, but I can certainly see applications for the tech.

DSCF8374

On the new laptops, however, charging the phone requires that it occupy all of the trackpad. In the case of the Flex, I suppose you can still use the touchscreen (there isn’t one on the Ion), but even so, there’s no scenario in which having a phone sitting on the trackpad doesn’t seriously dampen one’s ability to get some serious work done.

Between the issues and the fact that you can charge your phone the old-fashioned way with the laptops, it’s hard to find a scenario in which the feature is anything but a gimmick. Samsung says the trackpad offered the easiest implementation of the tech — versus, I suppose the palm rest or the top of the device. I’m not sure there’s a great implementation for a feature that might have better been left on the drawing board.

DSCF8369

It’s a silly feature on what are otherwise very solid additions to Samsung’s laptop line. The Flex is the more premium of the two, featuring a touchscreen and the 360-degree hinge that gives the device its name. The laptop has an aluminum body with a “royal blue” finish and a built-in slot for the included S Pen. It comes in both 13 and 15-inch varieties, with a 10th-gen Intel processor, 16GB of RAM and up to a TB of storage.

Also available in 13 and 15-inch versions, the Ion ditches the touchscreen and 360 hinge, but maintains an ultra-thin, lightweight design.

DSCF8390

Samsung’s jumping the gun a little early on the announcement here. Both models will be available in the U.S. early next year, priced similarly to their predecessors. Asked why the company didn’t just wait for CES for the announcement, it noted models arrive at different times in different markets.

Based on past systems, it seems like a pretty safe bet that they’ll be hitting Korean shores earlier. Perhaps in time for the holidays.

Samsung opens Android 10 One UI beta ahead of final launch

After pushing back a planned early-October launch, Samsung has introduced the Android 10 beta of its One UI. The 2.0 version of the Android skin follows a little less than a year after the first version’s beta (released in November 2018). The concept goes counter to the earliest Android overlays, instead intending to create a simpler take on Google’s operating system.

Manufacturers’ longstanding instance on putting their own stamp on Android is understandable — if sometimes misguided. Samsung’s initial stated intention for One UI is to let software and hardware “work together in perfect harmony,” to paraphrase Stevie Wonder.

Samsung One UI Beta Program Cat S10 full screen

One UI is largely a success on these fronts. And Samsung is understandably cautious about the rollout, opting again for a public beta version ahead its Android 10 release. “Select” Galaxy S10 owners in the U.S. can sign up for the program starting today, with a final release “in the coming months.” There are a lot of Galaxy phones out there, so the company clearly wants to get the experience right, gathering up user feedback in the process. 

Here’s what’s new, per Samsung:

  • A new, smarter layout with animated icons and improved edge lighting
  • An enhanced Dark Mode that reduces display brightness while viewing content and provides battery saving benefits
  • Minimized pop-ups, embedded loading indicators and the ability to only view buttons the user needs
  • A streamlined design where notifications take up less space, allowing users to stay up to date while focusing on the task at hand
  • Focus Mode to pause apps temporarily for times when you need to minimize distractions

More info on Samsung’s blog.

Samsung’s Galaxy Fold concierge service is live in the US for those who need it

Part of Samsung’s reboot of the Galaxy Fold was the announcement of a Premiere Service. Along with a reinforced version of the phone and a lot more warning labels, the company announced that it would also be a 24/7 care service…just in case something happened with the device.

I had some issues with my in just over a day, after not running into any trouble with the original version of the phone. Given how gingerly the company insists users act with the device, my issue doesn’t appear to be particularly widespread — good news for Samsung on that front. Even so, this sort of things feels pretty necessary for a $2,000 (and up) phone that is effectively in mass beta testing.

close fold

Two weeks after making the device available in the States, Premier Service has gone live. Sammobile noted the addition of Fold Concierge via a new software update, bringing with it support via phone or video chat. The list of potentially helpful features ranges from on-boarding with the device to a $149, same-day screen replacement service. That can be accommodated in person at a number of locations.

It’s a pretty unique offer from a big consumer electronics company — though the Fold is nothing if not unique, I suppose. I’ve got a fuller write up of my impressions of the handset here. The TLDR version is the I can’t recommend the purchase of what is very much a first generation device that’s double the price of a standard flagship. If you’re so inclined, however, Samsung’s got a hotline for you.